While opening a wellness and hospitality business during the coronavirus economy might have seemed like a risky proposition to some, for David Long and Brittney Cook, it was perfect timing.
The co-owners of Haven at Freemason: Choosing Wellness in Norfolk said the pandemic gave them time to develop and tweak their business processes. Haven, Long explained, has four components including a fitness studio, a spa and a kitchen occupying the first two floors. American Haven, an Airbnb, is on the third floor.
The business partners met when Long was an independent health coach and trainer who was working with Cook’s grandmother at her home. After becoming friends and talking about their respective skills sets — his in fitness and hers in hospitality, they came up with an idea that would combine those in an innovative way.
They acquired the historic building at 358 W. Freemason St. February 2020 and spent the rest of that year getting it ready, he said. The full vision came to life in 2021.
“We still had renovations that were being done and our kitchen was still in the process of being permitted and opening, so it actually was a great time for us,” he said. “It allowed us to start off slowly and to gradually pivot as we needed to.”
The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the John Cary Weston House. Its namesake was a founder of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Co. who built it as a summer residence. Built in the Victorian Italianate style, it features a cast iron porch and a mansard roof.
The short-term rental was the company’s first business unit to open and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it has performed well since the beginning, Long said.
“The Airbnb has been one of our biggest commodities. We’ve had an 80% booking rate each month,” he said.
Occupancy spiked during the pandemic when traveling nurses took long-term stays there, Long added.
“It was convenient for them because it’s within walking distance of EVMS and Sentara. They have their own private entrance and a full kitchen and washer and dryer. So, there’s a lot of amenities up there that keep them comfortable,” he said.
Haven’s kitchen, Americana Kitchen, serves wellness customers with options like pre- and post-workout drinks. During the warmer months, it maintains a few outside tables. It also offers a meal preparation service as well as catering for special events.
Wellness and personal care services include personal and couples massage, infrared light therapy, skin care treatments and vibrational sound therapy. The combined services with on-site lodging and kitchen make it easier to host events such as bridal parties.
Fitness classes include yoga and a variety of other classes, including some geared to those over 55 years of age as well as youth sports conditioning. Long, who is head coach in charge of the wellness side of the business, said Haven offers classes to accommodate different levels of fitness and that each class is tailored to the people attending. Each day of the week has a different fitness focus so clients can pick and choose what works best for their goals.
While not required, the business offers a $30 annual membership that provides discounts for packages and a la carte services. Examples of pricing include a package of eight yoga classes for $80 and a 60-minute massage for $85.
The economy is tough and so the business wants to offer both affordability and fun, he said. During these times, Haven wants people to feel welcome to come take care of themselves first in order to take care of others.
“Everyone receives personal hospitality here. We’re not just a commercial building, this is a home. This was this was a single-family home and we turned it into our home where we do multiple things that are all geared around holistic health and wellness,” he said.
For more information, visit havenwellandfit.com or americanakitchennfk.com.